South Downs MP: Back our British flower industry

Photograph ' Nick Herbert with Ben Cross in one of the greenhouses at Crosslands Flower Nursery, Walberton (photo submitted). SUS-151013-164114001
Photograph ' Nick Herbert with Ben Cross in one of the greenhouses at Crosslands Flower Nursery, Walberton (photo submitted). SUS-151013-164114001

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called on shoppers to back British-grown flowers following a visit to a Walberton nursery earlier this month.

Ben Cross invited Mr Herbert to Crosslands Flower Nursery to see how he grows British Alstroemeria flowers, also known as the Lily of the Incas or Peruvian Lily, and highlight the difficulties faced by British flower farmers.

The decline of large scale British flower production is largely blamed on the increase of imported flowers into the UK from Holland, Kenya, Brazil, Ecuador, Columbia and more recently Ethiopia.

The UK imports more than 90 per cent of its flowers, with supermarket sales accounting for at least 70 per cent of those sales.

The Flowers and Plants Association suggests that the fresh cut flower and indoor plant market is worth £2.2 billion at retail level, more than the UK music industry. This represents an average spend per person per year of £36, but most of this goes on flowers from overseas.

Ben is a fourth-generation flower farmer specialising in growing British Alstroemeria under three acres of glass at the nursery. His family have farmed the land since 1957, and it is still a family worked nursery now growing over thirty varieties of British Alstroemeria.

Crosslands Flower Nursery produces more than 1,000,000 stems of British Alstroemeria every year. However, with the majority of the public buying their flowers from supermarkets, and wholesalers and florists buying cheap imports, the market is a challenging one for Ben to compete in.

National campaigns have been run, such as British Flowers Week in June, but Ben would like to see a lot more done for this once flourishing industry.

During the MP’s visit Ben talked about his hope to see a ‘Buy British’ campaign being extended to flowers, as has been done already for some food products.

He would also like to see flower sellers distinguishing between the flowers grown in the UK from imported ones so that buyers can make an informed choice.

When he is not busy at the nursery, Ben is often speaking to horticultural groups and enthusiasts around the country and takes the opportunity to promote the ‘Buy British Flowers’ message.

He also provides tours at Crosslands Flower Nursery for people interested in learning more about British Alstroemerias and the current state of the UK cut flower industry.

He said: “It is vital that the government back British Flowers and something is done to radically stop the high level of cheap imports so British growers can continue their heritage as flower growers.”

After the visit, Mr Herbert said: “I was delighted to accept Ben’s invitation to his nursery and to learn more about this local industry. I was shocked to learn that such a high proportion of the flowers bought in this country are imported. We’ve had ‘Buy British’ campaigns for food, so perhaps it’s time for a big push to buy British flowers.

“I told Ben that I would raise this issue with Ministers at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It is a shame that a once flourishing industry should have lost out so badly, and sobering that Ben is the last large-scale flower grower in the area when there used to be so many more.”

He added: “Ben is a great advocate for British-grown flowers and as his local MP for a constituency where horticulture is important I will do what I can to support him.”

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